Monday, October 08, 2012

Left Handed, Four Eyed, Small Town & Catholic - and they call me Lucky???


Note to the reader:

If you want to read these stories in order you can click on the following story links:

I had more than my share of mystical challenges thanks to my maternal Grandfather of the Irish Campbell clan.  Of all his grandkids, he picked me to be entrusted as the future custodian of the family secrets in the ways of magic.

Maybe he did it because I, like my mother Patricia, shared his Patrick given Christian name, my middle name and Confirmation name.  I might have lost the Campbell Irish/Scottish surname but at least I kept the Irish Patrick name.

As far as magic was concerned, in Grandpa Pat's world it was impossible to distinguish between the magic used in ancient (Pagan) days or the more recent Christian era.

What he taught me through stories, fables and fantasies seemed to transcend time as if it really didn't matter when it began, the magic was real if you believed in it.

Perhaps an unexpected benefit of the blending of the Campbell (Irish) and Putnam (English) DNA was my interest in both the ancient Irish and British Celtic cultures, which made me feel at home in Newgrange Ireland or Stonehenge England.  For that matter I felt the same up at Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands when I was searching for Nessie.

When I think back of my Grandfather, I often wonder if he was really a Leprechaun in disguise or perhaps a magical wizard.  My first memories of him came when I asked him why he didn't have a thumb?  It seemed like a good question to me, even if I was only about four or five.

First his always smiling rugged Irish face broke into a mischievous grin.  Of course at that age he already towered over me.  Then he started laughing.  Then he just stared at his missing thumb for what seemed like an eternity.

Much later I would learn it was his tactic of stalling while he made up some wild Irish tale to spin on me.  At long last he shrugged, slowly shook his head, and admitted he lost his thumb when some nasty gnome popped out of the old clothes washer and grabbed his hand, pulling his thumb right into the clothes wringer looming menacingly over the washer tub.

Oh my God, I thought at the time, Grandpa must have powerful magic to fight off an evil gnome and only lose one finger.  He must be like my hero Merlin.

And that is one of the problems of bouncing freely between my fantasy world and reality.  I had no reason to doubt his veracity.  Even after he told me all good stories are only half true.

Don't think any other grandkids shared my strange world but my Irish grandfather most certainly did, as he was not a bit surprised I was so gullible.  So I passed the entrance exam to become custodian of the magic world of the Campbell clan et all and here I had no clue I was even being tested.

One of the reasons I'm sure he was a wizard was his ability to enchant me with his stories, as if I were under some spell.  I remember story after story of the world of the little people of Ireland but I have no memory of my grandfather telling me the stories, even though I knew I was with him at the time.

Sometimes I would have this faint recollection of having experienced the stories with him rather than being told by him and that was a most peculiar and unsettling notion.  I could just imagine the trouble I would be in if I could leap between worlds or dimensions at will.

From Alice's Wonderland to Tinker Bell's Never Land to Arthur's Camelot and back home again.  In truth most times it was hard to tell the difference between them.

Grandpa Pat made it okay to lose yourself in all those other worlds.  He also made it okay to create your own worlds as well.  There was one thing he was never going to lose and that was his right to his individual freedom.

There was a big difference in what those words meant between his grandson and his daughter, the grandson's mother.  Me and my mother in case you were confused.

I said it was a noble declaration of individual rights as well as a validation of the United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution by my Grandfather whose very own heritage taught him the tragic consequences of being denied such rights!

His daughter just sneered at me.

Then she said don't you patronize me with your intellectual nonsense or your idiotic conclusions.  What my father and your grandfather meant was if you don't like the truth - then change it!

I never would have figured that out on my own.

So I accepted her interpretation as her interpretation knowing full well mine was far more concise and consistent with how he lived.

Old Pat had that Scottish resolve and that Irish flair for living.  He met a number of my "how to spot a wizard" criteria beginning with the missing thumb tale.  By now it had magically transformed into how he used his thumb to plug up the hole in the Holland dikes like in the fairy tale.

I was not about to question my grandfather.

To my absolute delight and amazement, both my grandfathers were world class pack rats.  It was in the DNA.  There was no rhyme nor reason to what they "saved" as they called it.  They taught me the greatest of all collections you can have are fond memories you have known.

To share their world was to leave behind all rules, regulations, laws and definitions.  That was the single most powerful gift I had been given.  To understand I could step beyond definition knowing it was just another mechanism to limit your perception of truth, was a great and lasting legacy from my grandfathers.

They also taught me how to lose and how to survive.

I'm sure there are a lot of things they taught me I should not have learned but that remains to be seen.

Whatever else it was they shared, when Grandpa Pat said to never, ever tell my mom or anyone the things he shared with me I was marked for life.   Throughout his life and beyond his death my mom and her sisters never quit trying to get me to spill the beans on their father.

They were convinced because I spent so much time with him over the years that I knew everything about the "secret" life he kept from them.  Convinced I was a co-conspirator to hide assets and protect people in his life he did not want them to know about, they could never accept that someone like me could go through life without spying on people.

Oh there was a lot I did know, learn or observe over the years but nothing like they wanted to hear.  He did take me to obscure places in Texas to see cotton fields and citrus fields he owned, or a motel in Springfield, Missouri he owned, or farms in Iowa and Nebraska.

It wasn't my fault he didn't want to tell his own kids.  Besides, I was sworn to secrecy in a pact with a wizard.  You do not violate such confidences.  And I had no desire to wind up a frog or something.

Grandfather Putnam was equally eccentric and just as fiercely independent.  His life was a whirlpool of constant activity built around his many business ventures all connected to his long lineage of engineers, inventors and members of secret societies.

There was the Loyal Order of the Moose, the Masons, his own Moose Club Orchestra, the car dealer, tool and die shop, welding supply business, machine shop, beer distributor, apartment owner, nursing home owner and inventor.

I got to use his machine shop.  And his beer distributorship long before I was of legal age.  And Grandpa Put gave me my first American car, in a way.  He had a '49 Chev with a blown engine sitting behind his distributorship and I asked if I could buy it.

He said I could have it if I could drive it out.  Of course I was still a year from getting a driver's license and by then my family had been banished from the hometown and sent to live in exile in Southern Iowa.  Boy does that story sound familiar.

The exile left me 80 miles from Iowa City where the dead car sat behind the mountain of beer.  It took me less than month working on weekends with the help of my good friend Turtle and thanks to the genius of a son of my uncle's brother, or something like that.

Bobby, my relative and about ten years older and one hundred years wiser knew how to get anything done as fast as possible with the fewest questions.  He was a legendary fixer in Iowa City and his was the first place I headed when I got to town.

One time I broke a windshield in a borrowed car and he got it replaced in the middle of the night and no one knew it was ever broken.

This time he guided my repair of the old Chev and one Saturday my Grandpa stopped by the shop and the Chev was gone, eleven months before I turned 16 and got my license.  In a quiet town 80 miles away the Chev was parked two blocks away from my house where it remained a secret until I got my license.

Grandpa Put was not a bit surprised.

One night when we were working on the Chev Bobby, my somewhat wayward relative, told me if I really wanted an interesting care I should ask his dad, Frank, to give me an English Austin he had given Bobby for high school graduation years ago.

That got my attention.

Seems his day Dad was an electrical contractor who helped keep the lights on in London during all those years of bombing by the Nazis.  As a token of their gratitude, they gave him an Austin from the first production of passenger cars after World War II.

That would be 1946, the year of my birth.  Bobby hated the little European car.  Called it a sissy car.  Bobby would know, he was a grease monkey with an attitude.  A dead ringer for Jimmy Dean who had recently died.

As for the Austin, of course it was not the sports model he might have liked but the four door sedan that looked like an English taxi.

Bobby drove it less than 3,000 miles then permanently parked it in one of their garages, his dad owned several homes and properties.  One day I found it in the garage on a farm, again when I was 15, and though it had not been moved in 14 years I wanted it.  I of true Rothschild lineage was destined to have and to drive a vintage English classic.

So I asked Frank, Bobby's dad, if he would sell me the strange little car I found in his garage out on the farm by Indian Lookout Mountain.

He asked why I would want a car like that?  His own son called it a sissy car.  Fourteen years later and it was still a sensitive issue between Bobby and his dad.

When he said he would let me know sometime it sounded like a complete blow off, I would never be able to afford or get the car.  Later that year I got a birthday card from Frank.  Taped inside the card were the keys to the car.  There was no note.

The Putnam's were like that.  If they thought something was right they just did it.  No fanfare, no notes, just the keys taped in a card.  Within months of first getting my driver's license I had two cars licensed and running and paid for neither.  Yet another reason my mother said I was always lucky.

Of course she never considered the fact I had searched out the two cars, checked them out and pursued the owners to make a deal.  Then I had to fix them up.  Initiative was not her strong suit.  Of course it had to be luck.

Then again she was the one empowered to change the truth if she didn't like it.   We just never saw eye to eye.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Left Handed, Four Eyed, Small Town & Catholic - and they call me Lucky???


 Part IV.

It's a curious thing the relationship between a mother and her sons.  Take the three of us for example.  We all lived together, shared the same environment and the same mother.  Yet when we compared notes it was as if our mothers had nothing in common.

The archangel had nothing but good things to say about her.  What would one expect when his mother actually ironed his underwear?  He was quite comfortable in his role as the archangel Michael as long as mother took care of everything.

Archangels must be pretty demanding because her first son required pretty much all the energy she could muster.  There was simply no gas in the tank when it came to the afterthoughts.

My kid brother Bosco found any grown up revolting who stood between him and his mission to burn down everything, the ultimate pyro.  While the archangel was getting his pants pressed me and the pyro were outside blowing to smithereens with firecrackers every toy soldier we could find.

My arsonist days ended, however, not long after we threw a box of 22 shells into the incinerator and World War III broke out in the alley.  We had failed to blow them up slamming bricks on the shells.

I have to admit it, there were times my kid brother scared the Hell out of me.  He was reckless, probably possessed, and not at all interested in what was going on in the world.  But we had a bond, we were both motherless children, having lost our mother to the duties of rearing the archangel.

One day Bosco and I raced down the hallway by the archangel's room and noticed the massive American Flyer train set, one of our dad's prized possessions, was set up in the room.  Better yet, no one was around.

The layout was quite a work of art and engineering, qualities found in the Putnam DNA.  A board bigger than the bed folded up against the wall normally, but today it was down and all the trains, villages and mountains were in place.

Now Bosco and I had long debated what would happen if we started a train on top of the mountain and another at the bottom headed toward each other at full speed. How much damage could the two trains do to each other when they crashed?

Thanks to my mechanical skills we had everything working in seconds but when the trains smashed together nothing broke, they just flopped over sideways off the track.  It was nothing like the movies.  What a bummer.

So Bosco, having morphed into movie director Cecil B. DeMille, restaged the train wreck scene only this time, to make it seem more real, he loaded one of the train engines with fireworks.  I warned him the M-80s might be a bit too much but he insisted.  He lit the fuse and sent the train flying down the mountain leaving me seconds to launch the other one up the mountain.

The two trains weren't even close when the engine simply blew off the face of the earth, while the rest of the cars tumbled down the mountain with shrapnel flying all over the room.  As we dove under the bed the avalanche of debris crashed into the other train leaving a tangled mess.

When dad walked into the room, having heard the house shaking explosion, his stunned reaction was priceless.  His mouth opened to scream but no sound emerged.  The way he trembled and his veins popped up indicated a high degree of nerve instability so the vocal paralysis was probably a good thing,  It allowed him to calm down before he might have killed us.

We denied any knowledge of how an entire American Flyer train engine could possibly dematerialize and disappear, though we did acknowledge our role in the wreck and agreed to spend our allowances for the next 15 years replacing all the broken village and mountain pieces.

In hindsight I realized trusting Bosco's judgment was far too dangerous to risk in the future.

As for me and mom, when I was about six months old the archangel and I were in our apartment with our mother when the kitchen went up in flames.  From that infant age on I knew better than to trust her cooking.

Mom saved the archangel, I was left for the firemen to rescue.  [Okay, it might not have been quite like that but at 6 months old it is a lot to expect me to remember.]  Still, everyone escaped with little physical injury.

Psychologically it might have been a different matter.  My Druid influence from the Celtic ancestors on both sides of the family caused me to ponder why mom was a heroine for saving the archangel when she was the one who caused the fire in the first place.

This is important because once again I had been metaphysically forewarned about an impending danger, the danger of fire, and I had failed to get the message.  It was a warning to be wary of that soon to be born rascal Bosco.

Though I had plenty of opportunities, such psychic premonitions, visions and insights were generally ignored by me, probably because of my Catholic grounding.  To me it was like getting the answers before taking a test.  No challenge - no point in participating.

What fun is knowing the future and how can you ever hope to learn from your experiences when you already know how they will turn out?

Back to opinions of our mom.  The archangel thought she was great, Bosco was far too busy to pay attention, and then there was me, the thinker, and this was a subject that required a great deal of thought.

Having been an ardent fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and read every Sherlock Holmes book that existed, I was a student of deductive logic.  But when I tried to apply it to my mother in an objective manner it didn't work.

Her world was certainly not logical, a big problem.  I'd already had a few bumps in the road involving her at an early age so you might say I was unduly influenced in a negative way.

There was fleeing the apartment fire..

Being hospitalized with the mumps and given intravenous feeding.

Being hospitalized with measles with a 105 temp and being put in an ice tub.

Attempting to assassinate me with creamed spinach.

There were times when I was more than a little suspicious of her motives.  Occasionally the thought would cross my mind that maybe she wanted more time for the archangel.

By the time I started school many things were already clear to me though the rest of the world was too oblivious to know.  In spite of her pleasant persona my mom was a nut case.  She was like a computer without a hard drive, a cell phone with a dead battery.

I once told my Grandpa, her dad, that I thought my mother had a serious wiring problem but it was no reflection on him.  He laughed but did not dispute my assessment.

Of course I knew she really wasn't my mother because she wasn't Jewish, but I was still stuck in the alternate reality.

By second grade I realized the only way to survive with her was to give her a note every morning with her instructions for the day and reminders of what would help her get through the day.  She would not have made it without them.

As for counting on her for anything, it was high risk.  She couldn't cook so I had to make alternate arrangements to eat.  I did my own cooking, laundry, lunches and most other grown up things for myself.

By that time, when I was seven years old, she pretty much did whatever I told her to do because I was always fair and just with my assignments and understanding of her limitations.

When I brought home report cards from school with teacher comments and she had to respond I let her answer at first.  Then I realized she was sabotaging my education career by agreeing with everything the nuns said I was doing wrong.

One time my favorite nun, and they were few and far between in the strange town where I grew up, wrote a note saying I seemed to be distracted and she wished I would participate more in class because I had so much to offer the others.

Mom wrote back that I was distracted at home too, distant, detached, as if I was in "another universe".  Then she said maybe the teacher was not challenging me and should give extra work and assignments.

What she wrote back shocked me.  Telling the nun I was in another universe did not sound like a good thing.  Nor did telling the teacher she didn't know how to teach.

When I gave the nun the card and she read the comments she looked up at me and said she guessed I was worse off than she thought, and then she laughed.  It was the last time she communicated with my mother that year.

And it was my mother who started the rumor that I was Lucky, the luckiest person she ever knew.

Each time my team won state baseball championships I was lucky.  What about all the work it took over the years to win the dam titles?  I was lucky to get good grades, often straight A's, and lucky when I got a good job.

Most of the time I ignored my mom and it was better for all involved since we had nothing in common, I knew everything she did and didn't do, and she preferred to keep away from me.

She was convinced I was possessed along with some of the nuns and priests.  When I was accused of abusing the authority of priests by questioning a priest on the intent of the Bible, then challenging his conclusions, in 7th grade mind you, the priest and nun demanded I be exorcised of the demons.

Mom was most certainly cheering them on demanding they put the heretic to death at the stake, just like in the Salem witch days.  I got covered with holy water but refused to repent because I could see no reason for the fuss when the priest clearly did not know what he was talking about.

After my spiritual cleansing mom agreed the priests could take me on a weekend silent retreat where one could only attend Mass each day and hear a short lecture, spending the rest of the time in spiritual meditation.

I thought it sounded cool, like a Buddhist retreat, and said I intended to study notables in the Bible for my penance.  Then I went to the town librarian, a friend because I checked out more books than anyone in town, and she helped me gather all the books I could find on my Bible characters.  There was Lucifer, Satan, Beelzebub, and any other demon I could find mentioned in the Bible.

The priests were horrified when I showed up for the silent retreat armed with books about the dark side of Biblical tales, but they could not throw me out because they were all Bible notables.

By this time in my life, when I was 13, I'd seen more than my share of good and bad in life and in people so I was thinking I better get to know the bad guys, then I might know what to expect from them in the days, weeks and years ahead.

In my own way I loved my mother like a mother deserved regardless of how good she might be at being a mother.  As long as we stayed apart we were close.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Left Handed, Four Eyed, Small Town & Catholic - and they call me Lucky???


Part III.

If you were me how would you feel about having the four strikes against you at birth?  As you can see, my life was not just the four strikes against me but the fascinating DNA issues and the myriad of other factors dumped on me at birth and for a long time to come after.

I was born with a bulls eye on my back.

Before my mouth even opened confusion and torment already threatened my existence.  Back when I was still in the womb I'm sure I sensed the foreboding and when I was jerked out into the world the first thing I saw was a women doctor, quite uncommon back in those post war days.

And then there was my religion.  Of course I already mentioned I was really a misplaced Rothschild kid due to the screw up back at HQ.  That made me Jewish.

In my reality show family, remember the little discussion about my non-Catholic father's English family helping to drive my Catholic mother's family from their birthright, titles, castles and money in Scotland?

Now fast forward to my birth.  My father was a recent convert to Catholicism and when it comes to embracing religion there is nothing like a new convert for enthusiasm and a bad case of religious fervor.

That meant instead of going to church once a week for Sunday services, my fanatical father decided he needed to go to church every day, probably to make up for all those years he hadn't seen the light.  So he drug us kids along for the ride.

Sure don't know what he expected with the hyper-Catholic activity but it didn't seem to get us any more in God's favor.  No matter how hard I prayed I was never going to hit the game winning home run or score a date with the beautiful rich girl.

Unfortunately, my dad's family never got over the traitor, my dad, who would forgo the eternal security of being non-Catholic to switch sides and join the dreaded mackerel snappers.

When we would visit the rest of the Putnam family I always searched around for any signs of cross burning or voodoo dolls, knowing the deep seated conflict between these surrogate families for the English and Scottish/Irish causes.

Oddly, both sides of the family accepted me, perhaps because I reminded them often of my true Jewish heritage, which thus made me much less of a card carrying Catholic threat.

Now the fact they seemed to accept me thus cast suspicion on my motives by my mother's Campbell side of the family who seemed to think I had been spiritually hijacked by those dastardly Putnam's and was probably already indoctrinated into the Masonic 50th degree secret society.

I did nothing to discourage the rampant rumors and innuendo, choosing to remain silent.  I'm a great believer in the Tip O'Neill philosophy about saying little, "it is better people don't know what you know, than to know what you don't know."

On the other hand,  I could always strike terror into the hearts of those Putnam's by threatening to join their Moose Club Lodge or Masonic Order, also secret societies I suspected of having a rather negative view of Catholics.  They never had the heart to tell me I was ineligible.

Throughout my life I was a most curious person about everything, which was another of my many demonic virtues according to my mother, and especially according to those priests and nuns.

 Speaking of which, in spite of the Putnam pressure against it I actually joined a Catholic secret society, the Knights of the Alter.  God's army for Pete's sake.  Okay, okay, so it was just an alter boy, but I was armed to the teeth with bells and smoke bombs, oh yeah incense.

It was during my early Dark Ages, when the memory of my true Rothschild heritage was beginning to slip away in the chaos of growing up.  It was in the latter part of grade school.  At the time I actually harbored the thought of becoming a priest, which I soon rejected based on observing those of the faith I personally experienced.

Then I figured I should not waste all those pious years of training to be a priest and I decided to be a religious brother, but there were far too many rules for such a simple life.  My idea of saving the world was not learning how to weed a garden.  I was thinking of being more like Thomas Aquinas or St. Augustine, theologians, not gardeners.

So my last grasp at retaining a link to all that Catholic education and training was to become a religious hermit because by this time having a conversation with myself in a cave would be far more intellectually stimulating than remaining in my environment.

What ever happened to those glorious dreams of thinking I could save the world?

I was drawn to a world of classical literature, Greek mythology, empires and kingdoms, warlords and dragons.  What I got were brothers who hated to read and abhorred the very thought of writing.  Intellectual stimulation was sticking your finger in a light socket.

By now I had experienced the mysterious Catholic world of Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation and Exorcism, I was ready to try something new.  It was time to experience rowing, croquet and polo instead of kick the can, cowboys and Indians.

By the time I reached the end of grade school it was obvious I had greatly miscalculated my potential and possibilities.  I needed a fresh start.

 In my 8th grade year I was playing football without a helmet in the big game against the 9th grade high school kids.  We were barely ahead but the 9th graders were driving for the goal line in the last seconds for the win.

The archangel was on their team.  Great incentive.  So when the big fullback came blasting toward the goal line and I was the only thing that stood between him and the score and thus win, I did what anyone would do, if they were crazy like me.

I threw my head toward the giant's legs and my head met his knee at full speed.  The two bodies were fused from the collision and rose in the air, hanging there for what seemed like eternity, then slowly we toppled over away from the goal line.

Victory was preserved.  A new legend had been discovered and a new hero had been born.  I remember being carried around the field, to the cheers of all the kids watching the spectacle.

Then everyone started leaving to go home.  I stood in the middle of the now empty field with no where to go.  To my astonishment, I had no idea who I was or where I lived.

A brain concussion is a most complex thing.  It can leave you knocked out cold or without any memory, but if you are still conscious as I was you can remember what happened to you during the time you lost your memory.

How odd.

I remembered nothing of my Hayseed life in Iowa or real life in Rothschild's London.  Someone led me home, I finally drifted off into a coma, and about three days later came back.

High school would bring better days.  For one, I was going to learn more about my Jewish culture.  After 9 years in Catholic schools I'd about given up finding out much about my Jewish people.  It was time I met a real life Jewish person to teach me the ancient ways.

So I grabbed my kippah and Torah and set out in search of a Jewish family to meet in the farm towns of Iowa.

It was a steel slide guitar incident that miraculously morphed into meeting my first real Jew in the summer of 1960.

Let me explain.

Once I discovered Elvis and Buddy Holly in the late 1950's moral decay and deterioration immediately set in from the cosmic exposure to rock and roll, the demon's tool of fatal addiction for the innocent and gullible minds of all those Christian virgins.

 Suddenly I discovered a replacement for all those stupid Spike Jones drum sets I used to get for Christmas that were always smashed to pieces by New Years.  Come to think of it, when you look at the drum it was a pretty demonic image to give a kid whose life was already filled with enough darkness.

Anyway, I wanted a rock and roll guitar like Elvis and Buddy.  My parents were more the Hit Parade types having been raised in the days of swing bands and hot jazz.  Oh they were into music big time, but the wrong kind for my rebellious nature.

While I listened to Teddy Bear and Peggy Sue they listened to all kinds of stuff like Hank Williams and the Andrews Sisters.  In fact my dad could never stop singing "Your Cheating Heart" which should have triggered all kinds of warning signs in terms of the family stability.

Still, they decided to give me a guitar, but a steel slide guitar like Hank used in his songs.  I didn't care what the Hell kind it was as long as I could learn rock and roll on it.

After a handful of lessons from a country purist who thought my learning style was some kind of punishment for his years of booze and women, and bloody fingers from picking those steel strings, I'd had it.

So I took the guitar back to the little shop where Santa had bought it, just outside the main downtown area along the railroad tracks.  Lo and behold, before me stood my long sought Jewish connection, Bernstein's Music Store.  I nearly burst into tears of joy.

Exploding through the doors of that old store I broke out in dazzling version of the "Hora", the traditional Jewish wedding dance, to the absolute astonishment of my new friend Mr. Bernstein, proprietor of the most important shop in Iowa.

The store was not nearly as big as I thought as I went careening off the counters along the narrow aisle nearly wiping out a full orchestra of instruments to the laughter of Mr. Bernstein.

When I told him I was there to trade in my stupid steel guitar and learn about my Jewish faith and culture he laughed so hard he had to go get a drink of water and dry his eyes.  It was the beginning of a long and trusting bond between me and my first Jewish mentor.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Left Handed, Four Eyed, Small Town & Catholic - and they call me Lucky???


Part II.

Okay, we survived Part I which was somewhat unusual but I do feel the DNA coding, which we do indeed inherit, is an important element in the story of the wayward Iowa Hayseed.

Think about it.  DNA just might be the direct link to God since most of us blame Him or Her for giving it to us in the first place.

In fact there are any number of critical life elements that we don't control like inheriting the DNA.  There is the family you join, the country, state, town or village and your family status in your town that have major impacts on your life and you don't control.

Then there are the race, cultural, religion, language and a host of other major issues in your life and again you have no control.

Wait a minute.  What about the most significant influences on your life?  Start with Survival 101 - your parents, Survival 102 - your grandparents  and Survival 103 - the elementary. secondary and higher education teachers you didn't choose.

Add to that the millions of variables that make up your life for instance how many siblings, their gender and their attitudes.  Toss a few dozen relatives and priests, ministers, mullahs or rabbis into the mix and you've got yourself one powerful cocktail.

What do these amazingly varied and seemingly unrelated components of your life all have in common?

In spite of the fact your day of atonement and moment of judgment will come from whoever your divine God might be, you are being judged on a whole bunch of factors and standards you did not control!

You did not create!

You did not choose!

Yet are the measuring sticks for your judgment.

Don't know about you but I feel I have just made a powerful case against the use of "free will" as a determining factor for judgment day.

There is nothing "free" about those varied components of our lives and it is about time we not be held responsible for all those impediments to the exercise of genuine "free will" on our part.

They are all someone else's "will" being unfairly imposed on our life.

That compelling argument and consequential attitude should get me off the hook on a whole lot of stuff when I stand before St. Peter awaiting judgment at the gate.

You see there is no other logical explanation on why this Iowa Hayseed set out on his Quixote-like adventure reflected in this story.  In an early life aptitude test from grade school I was asked what I wanted to do in life.

My unacceptable response was , " I just want to learn about everything and I just want to experience everything".  Needless to say, my parents and siblings could never understand me, and the nuns and priests could never quite get their hands around that attitude.

As for me, I created my own world full of the people, characters, places and things I liked, wanted to know, or wished I had experienced, co-mingling at will the real, the imagined and the fantasized in a most demanding world.

In truth I was my own best inspiration and worst enemy from before I can even remember.

It did not take long in life to realize other people were clueless about me and my ways and they would never be in a position to fairly judge me because of that.  If I was to survive life it would be up to me to create and enforce my education and understanding and therefore achieve the knowledge I hoped to get from life.

As a result, I was the judge, jury and executioner over what I achieved in life and let me tell you I was no slacker when it came to evaluating my performance.  No one was more demanding on me nor could they be because only I knew my real potential.

In the end, experiences built my life, not education and opportunity.  I found ways to compensate for all the opportunities I would never know.

When you think of it, just how much should you expect from an Iowa Hayseed?  I wanted to be judged not on my knowledge of the art of composting cow manure but on the ancient Greek teachings of Plato, Socrates and Aristotle.

One might say I was truly out of my element.

As for the sibling stuff, well that was some form of prepenance, like being found guilty in confession before I even knew the sins.

Like many post-war families in the era of the baby boomer, I was born the very first year of the baby boomers, in 1946.  Yes, the first post World War II babies born under the cloud of the atomic bomb radiation still circling the earth waiting to catch a ride in the rain.

Of course one like me could never be the FIRST child.  That one, born 13 months earlier just before the bombs were dropped, was appropriately called Michael, as in the Archangel Michael, God's greatest defender.

Me, I was just plain Jim and at times my Mother was pretty convinced I was sent by demons to terrorize her precious Archangel Michael.  Why not!  When you're a one syllable afterthought what other purpose is there to serve?

Anyway the Archangel got that name only because Jesus had already been taken here on earth.  Either one was an adequate indication of Archangel Michael's potential as savior of the universe in the eyes of his Mother.

One time she was talking about the Immaculate Conception and almost said his birth was about the same magnitude though I compared it to more like an 8.4 earthquake on the Richter scale.

Exactly 13 months after my birth along came Robert, (I called him Bosco), the real demon as Mother would have known had she paid attention to anyone but the Archangel.

That left me on my own and Bosco under my tutelage as far as surviving our youth and that was fine with us since we had the advantage of being outside observers to the care and proper raising of an Archangel.

I always wondered if my Mother ever thought those two demons she had might have had more to do with her Catholic intolerance for birth control than being the object of some supernatural plague out to get her Archangel.

You would think a Mother who scored the Archangel Michael her first try would stop trying to improve on the original with more kids just destined to be in the way of the Holy One.

The Archangel was born in a three piece suit and always wore a proper hat.  The poor soul could not stand being dirty, abhorred getting dirt or mud on his hands or clothes, and always expected his underwear to be ironed and his shoes to be shined, by someone else.

Parental brainwashing assured he expected to be the leader of the pack and it was the responsibility of the pack to demonstrate loyalty by paying dues to be in his presence.

Needless to say, my younger brother and I did not share in his world view nor desire to be part of his fascist kid's club.

I had a couple of advantages over my brothers to offset the many disadvantages and most important was my obsessive compulsion to read and write, something they found overly demanding with little downside reward.

Thus I was the gatekeeper for all the knowledge of the universe found in books and I could communicate what I learned to others through the ability to write.

For quite different reasons they both settled on me being rather odd although Bosco did find my adventures far more interesting and challenging than those of the Archangel.  In my fantasy world getting dirty was normal, getting in trouble was noteworthy and getting someone mad was worth a merit badge.

For the most part our childhood memories consisted of the Biblical life style of the Archangel and the chaos and confusion of the afterthoughts.

Except for the scripted interaction from the parents in which the Archangel was to bestow on us his favor, we lived separate lives.  So separate that neither we nor the Archangel has any memories of the three of us being buddies or hanging out throughout childhood.

I did with my brothers what was required by the laws of God and nature but that was the extent of it.  Beyond that I created a new world of boundless creative endeavors, the aggressive pursuit of knowledge, and the ability to instantly leap into the Land of Oz, Wonderland, Camelot or even the Alamo and still escape.

By kindergarten my path was set when I joined the Public Library Book Reading Club and won many honors for reading the most books each month.  It was the first of my activities intended to separate me from my siblings as neither would be caught dead in a library book club.

Because of my pursuit of information I soon learned what the kids in Russia, China and Europe learned long ago, that we should not overlook the potential of our grandparents as a source of information and knowledge.

Interestingly, my grandparents on both the Putnam and Campbell sides found my curiosity to be charming and spent a lot of time sharing their knowledge with me and I shall forever be grateful.  I was far more comfortable in the company of adults than kids.

By the time I was in third grade I found kids to be quite naive as they knew nothing about world affairs, politics or history.  Yet every weekend Grandfather Campbell would test me on current events that week expecting me to have read Time and Life magazines before I saw him for Sunday brunch.  Of course he didn't know I also read Popular Science, National Geographic and Boys Life.